As I recounted in a column late yesterday, in 2009, the ineffable John Kerry, then the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a staunch Obama ally, told the Financial Times that it was “ridiculous” to claim Iran did not have a right to enrich uranium.
At the time, it was the official position of the United States and our allies that the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) does not endow member states with a right to enrich uranium (or to any particular path to nuclear power), though it does provide that states have an “inalienable right” to the peaceful use of nuclear power. That longstanding policy had been forcefully advocated by the administration of George W. Bush, who defeated Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
Nevertheless, during the early days of the Obama presidency and of election turmoil in Iran that would soon have the jihadist regime shooting protesters in the street, Kerry countered that the NPT clearly endowed Iran with a right to enrich uranium. As the Financial Times reported on its interview with Kerry:
“The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous . . . because it seemed so unreasonable to people,” said Mr. Kerry, citing Iran’s rights as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. “It was bombastic diplomacy. It wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will,” he added. “They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.”
A recent MEMRI report that I outlined yesterday indicates that, according to senior Iranian officials, beginning in 2011, secret communications by then-Senator Kerry and Obama administration officials, including President Obama himself, signaled to the regime in Tehran that the United States government was prepared to concede an Iranian right to enrich uranium. Recognition of this “right” had been a non-negotiable demand by the regime. Obama’s winking concession to it – presaged by a letter from Senator Kerry to the regime, explicitly recognizing “Iran’s rights regarding the enrichment cycle” – is what brought the regime to the bargaining table according to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s “supreme leader.”
Such a concession would be reckless, and not just because of what ought to be the unacceptable prospect of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism enriching uranium – a process that can lead to weapons-grade nuclear energy.
There is no sensible way to read the NPT to grant Iran a right to enrich uranium without conceding every country a right to do so. Thus, this interpretation could (and undoubtedly will) lead to a surge in uranium enrichment and, in turn, to an arms race in the world’s most unstable region (among other places). Given that the stated intention (if not the practical effect) of the NPT is to prevent the weaponization of nuclear power, the Obama administration’s concession of a right to enrich uranium would have a perverse result.
So, not surprisingly, after explicitly agreeing to Tehran’s enrichment of uranium in Obama’s Iran deal, the administration is now insisting it has made no concession of a right to enrich uranium. In that connection, Kerry – now, of course, Obama’s secretary of state – had the following exchange on Tuesday with Reuters editor-at-large, Sir Harold Evans:
EVANS: Secretary, deal with the common statement that they won, quote, the right to enrichment. Just deal with that.
KERRY: Well, they don’t have a right to enrich. They have – under the NPT there is no right. The NPT is silent on the right to enrich. It doesn’t grant people automatically a right to enrich. But the NPT also doesn’t ban it. It doesn’t say you can’t enrich. And there are about 12 NPT countries, we among them, who enrich. At the moment we’re not doing that, but others are…. [The Iranians] say they need the right to enrichment. And – or not a right – they need to be able to, because they don’t have a right. And that’s very important to remember here.
Forever Kerry: He was for Iranian enrichment before he was against it.